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Dear BabyN,

You turned 9 months old last week, and the last time I wrote to you was when you were a week shy of 8! I was reading this letter Roop wrote to your very first friend ever, and I wanted to write to you too! I tell you, that Roop writes so well, that I want to cry every time I read the letter she writes to her little girl.

You have spent more time outside now, than you did in my womb, yippe to that!

Let’s see, milestones!

You crawl, of course, everywhere now. Nothing is spared, everything turned over, inspected and promptly put in the mouth. Speaking of which, you routinely find small, dangerous stuff to eat, and then go all silent. That is my cue to find you and stuff my fingers into your mouth to fish that offending thing out! It is like a game now. We also have a new game now – Where in the world is BabyN? Is he under the dining table? Or under his rocker? Or behind the couch? Or better yet, licking the trash can? Yes, you did lick the trash can a few times I caught you in the kitchen, sitting in a corner and merrily licking the can. I showed you the trash can and said loudly, NO Licking! No Licking! And you laughed, LOLed more like! Was that funny, because it was not intended to be so. You are moving around so much that it is impossible to capture you in pictures or video unless it is done on the sly or one of us is holding you down. Most of your pictures are like this:

You are talking a dime a dozen. Not talking in the strict sense of the word, but blabbering, more like. Your favorite words are doi doi doi, ablablablabla, and amamamamama. The most used word is doi and we are super curious to know what that means. One would have expected you would say mamma or dada or some variations of those first but you started with doi 😦

Mamma and nanna are still splitting their work times so one of us can stay home with you. But I can see how you have changed, already. You run towards the door crying mamamama when I come back and greet nanna with a huge smile and jump on him when he is back. It is like you are saying, save me from this person, I have been with him/her for so long!

I keep complaining about how life changes with baby, but ironically, I do not remember a life before you arrived! It seems like you were in our life for far more than your mere 9 months on earth.

Every day is a challenge for nanna and I, to keep errant dust, trash, small objects away from you, but you still manage to find bits and bobs to put in your mouth, then you make a weird vomiting sound, we run to stuff our fingers down your throat to fish it out and breathe a sigh of relief. That is one big reason we are always milling about you when you are on your explorations. What is so exciting about a small piece of envelope that has fallen from our hands while we were opening the mail? How come you put that in your mouth but when  I give you the bits of banana-flavored wheat snack you don’t put it in your mouth? Oh yeah, you bend and lick the snack off the plate or the floor like a vacuum cleaner.

Now we see you are scared of certain things. The Roomba , for one. While it is stationary you will attack it and try to lick it or better yet take a bite out of it, but as soon as it is switched on you crawl away from it as fast as possible and start crying! The other day we bought an exercise mat and a foam exercise roll and you are terrified of both! Whenever I sit on the mat and put you on my lap you cling to me like a man clings to a tall tree in the midst of flooded waters, it is a funny sight. You, my brave baby, who was not scared of being on a swing, not scared of new people, not scared of putting stuff in your mouth, are scared of a mere mat…HA!

Naps are still something I complain loudly about, but you are your own person already, and will not succumb to any attempts from my side to put you on a self-nap schedule. So I have given up. At least for now. I am hoping that the day care will have you all set. Oh yes, you will start going to a daycare soon enough. Now that you are interacting with everyone and are plainly bored with the one caregiver you have to make do with everyday, we feel it will be good for you to be in the midst of your peers.

Nanna and mamma are taking you on your first ever flight, to India! Yes, your country. Though you are born here in the US, mera beta, you are an Indian and your mamma is going to show you how amazing her country is. She is already singing Saare Jahan Se achcha to you, and Vande Mataram too. You lucky baby, you will be in India on republic day, who knows, you might get to wear an India flag too!

New games everyday, new ways to outwit you everyday. That is our life, for now. You come crawling at super-sonic speed as soon as the bedroom door is opened and run to the closet as if you are on a mission. Once there, you grab odd plastic bags or pajamas in there and start chewing away. One thing you are still not doing is giving your poor mamma her share of hugs that she desperately needs. When will you start hugging me, baby? Whenever you cling to me I imagine that as a hug and soothe myself. But mamma wants the real thing NOW! Soon you will be a toddler and will be too busy to even look mamma’s way, so she has to make the most of the time now.

I hope, some day you get to read all the posts I have written for you, and see how much nanna and mamma love you. Some day, when you are a pre-teen or a teenager, and you hate your parents for being uncool and being the worst parents on earth, I hope you read these posts and see for yourself how much they love you and how much you love them and how they tried to do the best they could for you! Sigh!

Now I leave you with this picture of a rare moment. You are content lying on my lap, chewing away poor Sophie! For that one minute you were just staring at me(or so I would like to think) and my heart skipped a beat.

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Ruk jaana nahin….

…tum kaheen haarke. That is BabyN’s slogan, and he takes it very seriously, crawling all day, all over the place.

In 10 more days my baby will be 8 months old, and I cannot stop kissing him and cuddling him and hugging him! If it is not me, it is his dad cuddling him. He gets cuddled all day, right until he falls asleep at night. Then we close the door on him and celebrate our freedom for the next 12 hours …LOL. Jokes apart, he is undeniably the love of our life. If someone asked me if I love my husband more or my baby, I don’t know what I would say. That reminds me of an incident my colleague narrated. her daughter is 5 and my colleague believes in being truthful and frank. Consequently, the daughter knows there’s no Santa, and that people love and hate etc. So when the daughter asked mommy if she loved daddy more or her, the mom replied that she loved them both in different ways, so there really is no way to compare. This made the little girl mad and she refused to accept the answer until the mom conceded that she loved the little girl more than the husband! Phew, kids!

The  house is my baby’s oyster, he crawls about everywhere and puts everything in his mouth. Nothing is spared, not the door mat, not footwear, not even small specks of dirt on the floor. So much so that this harried mom is forever cleaning debris off the floor so it doesn’t end up in his mouth. All day I crawl with him, trying to see the world from his perspective, and I must say it is hard work! I wonder where babies get the energy from, to crawl and observe and explore their environment on mere ounces of milk and couple spoons of goopy food. Speaking of food, introduction of solids was fun but he is losing interest in eating. All he wants to do is hold the spoon in his hands and bang it on his high chair tray, and then drop it to the ground, and yell at me to pick it up and give it to him, so he can repeat.

My baby has 2 sleep personalities. The day personality is never-shut-your-eyes-to-get-sleep-coz-that-cuts-time-off-exploration. HE DOES NOT SLEEP UNLESS ROCKED FOR 30-45 MINS. He just won’t sleep, and even if he does, it is only for 30-45 minutes, and that too sprawled on mom’s or dad’s chest. One movement from them and he is up and ready for action! The night personality, on the other hand, is an amazing sleeper who barely utters a peep until morning. We think the day personality enables the night one. Since he is so active and moving during the day, he has barely any energy to stay awake beyond 7:00pm. Of course we haven’t tried breaking the night routine by taking him out anywhere after 5 yet. That would be an interesting exercise.

So all this crawling and bending down to retrieve his choice toys and rocking him to sleep is sure a nice exercise, but it is throwing my back out every so often. That is what you get with age I guess!

Coming back to baby antics. So every morning we go into the room when he cries for us, usually around 7:00am. The other day when I went in to pick him up coz he was crying, he wasn’t in his crib. To our horror we saw him on all fours on the floor, and crying. This is a shocking moment in every parent’s life, scared that your baby is injured. We checked him for bruises or cuts or bumps, for fever and were glad that he was ok. But this prompted us to quickly lower the crib mattress height! Now he can barely reach the rail standing up and all is right with the world.

We haven’t really bought many toys for him, and he takes to the unlikeliest of things to play with. Nowadays, the hottest things are a blue sock and a plastic jar lid, so we are really not too keen on showering him with toys that could overwhelm his creativity 😉 (That there is lazy parenting at work)

The last 8 months have been a roller coaster ride. The first one or two were overwhelming, me wondering and second guessing myself, the next few wondering about his personality, and the last one or two just enjoying him for what he is, a wide awake, widely curious and fun baby. Hell, he even lets me go shop, and keeps quiet until he is absolutely bored, even the husband never afforded me that luxury! As his personality develops and becomes more apparent, I am amazed at how much he learns and changes every single day. And he figures out ways to adapt so he can outsmart us every second of the day. But I keep reminding him –

“Bachche, tum jis school me jaoge hum uske principal reh chuke hain”

Love you my baby, may you do din duni raat chauguni tarakki in life. You mom and dad are always with you, and will keep observing you from a distance, far enough to let you figure things out on your own, but near enough to hold you when you fall.

 

Hodgepodge post

It has been more than 2 weeks since I last blogged and a lot has happened since. BabyN is crawling, for one, and nothing in the house is safe from his grabbing hands and his open mouth anymore. It is odd that for the last 2 months all he has been doing is put stuff in his mouth constantly. If this is teething I will be one happy mamma when this phase is over, because nothing is spared. Not my shoulder, not our fingers, hair, clothes, the crib rail or for that matter legs of the coffee table. The other day I found him on his belly, trying to mouth the coffee table leg! Who does that? I was laughing so hard I forgot to take a picture before I pulled him out from under the table! We started him on solids right after he completed 6 months, and so far he loves it. His favorites keep changing from acorn squash to beans to broccoli to bananas but he most definitely hates pears and apples.

This below is a good snapshot of what we do all day: constantly trying to stand up, climb places and generally be restless and overactive!

I started work on writing 50k words in 30 days, aka, National Novel Writing Month, aka 30 days of writing madness. 50,000 words in 30 days makes it roughly 1667 words a day, and I have written 3800 words so far, and day 3 is not over yet. Overall I feel really good about my progress, except that I am really not sure how good the writing or the plot development really are. After this month ends I am going to work on the manuscript to make it more coherent and start posting chapters on this blog starting early next year. That is the plan, now what turns out, we will see. By putting all this down in writing I am hoping that I am giving my commitment to the task, and that will keep me motivated through days of doom and gloom.

Typos

I re-read my last post and am thoroughly ashamed at the number of typos in it. Considering I had proof-read the post at least once before I hit publish, I should be double ashamed. Grammar and spell check does not tell you that you have used an apostrophe where none is needed(the title) or that you used ‘write’ instead of ‘right’! People like me need mind reading software, not just grammar and spell check software.

On a lighter note, is anyone watching Big Boss? Is it worth wasting an hour on?

This parent or that parent?

Become a parent and your life becomes a free for all suggestion-extravaganza!

Breast is best; a little formula won’t kill your baby. Don’t pick your baby when he cries, you are spoiling him; don’t let him cry, you are causing him mental anguish. Wear your baby, it is good for him; you will make him a sissy if you do that. Let him sleep in his own room; babies need to sleep with their mommy and daddy. Extended breastfeeding is the way to go; yuck don’t breastfeed for more than a year, breastfeeding a toddler is disgusting. Yada yada yada…..yeah leave us alone!

In the US there are two distinct, but diametrically opposite parenting philosophies. One is the conventional, industrialized parenting, where pretty much everything goes, formula reigns supreme, making the baby independent using techniques like sleep training to enable babies to sleep through the night from a young age, using conventional discipline techniques for toddler tantrums etc. Then there is this new-age parenting philosophy called Attachment Parenting, where breastfeeding until toddlerhood is the norm, babies co-sleep with their parents, most babies are carried in slings all day long, positive discipline is implemented on toddlers etc. And they don’t see eye-to-eye with each other. That leaves parents like us, who really don’t have a parenting philosophy, confounded.

What if I am neither a conventional parent nor an attachment parent? What if we are just one of those parents who really don’t have a philosophy other than doing the best for our baby? What if we are just learning on the fly, doing whatever it takes to make baby and us comfortable? I have a term for that. Adjustment parenting. There, now I feel better, I have a term for my style of parenting, which really should have been Lazy Parenting, but is now called Adjustment Parenting, where the baby adjusts a little, and the parents adjust a lot to the changing conditions. Babies change all the time, they are changing every minute of every day. What works today is guaranteed to not work a few days from now, that is something any parent will vouch for. So what better way to parent than to keep changing your methods to suit the changing needs of the baby? (Wow I feel like a parenting expert here, hi-five for me, fellow parents?)

Unending to-do lists.

Self-help books and blogs are the bane of existence of bookworms like me. I am on parenting blogs 24/7, searching for easy sleep tips, napping ideas, and now that my baby has started on solids, tips to make mealtime more fun. Guess what happens inside my head, then. Information overload. Read him a book, sing to him, reserve some cuddle time, take him out on walks, talk to him, give him appropriate toys for stimulation, put him to sleep as soon as you see first signs of sleep, feed him a wide array of foods, blah blah blah(everything ends up being blah blah blah). SO MUCH TO DO, SO LITTLE TIME. I get home from at 11:30am, the husband leaves for work. Then BabyN and I play for some time, nurse, then it is time for a nap. Depending on how much effort I put in, the nap lasts anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. By the time he is up it is 2:00pm. That is when I put him on the living room floor for play time and rush to get some chores done – unload and load the dishwasher, get veggies out for cooking, boil food to be pureed etc, all the while keeping a hawk eye on him so he does not bang into furniture, or eat the carpet. An hour of playtime/chores later, he is ready for some mommy time. We sit and ‘talk’, I try to **ahem** sing to him, he laughs, coos and it is time to eat. Sometimes, if I am really lucky, he will go right to sleep while nursing, and I can catch some sleep with him. If not, then I have a loong and tiring afternoon ahead of me, where he is super excited and wants to play but his body wants to sleep, so sleep it is! After close to an hour of trying, he will go to sleep for 45 minutes, and be up and ready to play again. That is when I wheel him out for a walk to really tire him out. Close to an hour of walk later, it is time to go home and nurse again, and also time for daddy to come back home. Daddy-baby time of time off for me, so guess what, I make chai and get some more chores done – cooking, planning BabyN’s mealtime, getting clothes out for BabyN’s shower, getting the water ready etc. A few spoons of goopy food and a warm shower later, around 7:15 PM it is time to sleep, and daddy takes over the putting to sleep routine, and I get food all warmed up and ready to eat. We eat, clean up, and THEN FINALLY I get some ‘me time’, which is devoted to reading parenting blogs so I can do more stuff the next day, stuff that I am ‘supposed’ to do so my baby gets the right stimulation and activity. UFFF. See what I said about reading being the bane of my existence? So between implementing the ‘must-do’ activities for baby, keeping him clean and safe, and getting chores done, I wonder if life would be easier if BabyN just went to a daycare!  Between all this, I also have ‘work’ to think about, which invariably means I have emails to answer when I am home, sometimes even an hour or so of actual work to do.  This part-time stay at home mommy gig is indeed tiring. Who said stay at home moms have it easy? Who did?

Aa bail mujhe maar.

Considering I really have so much on my plate right now, it is foolish to take up more. But me being me, I have decided to participate in the National Novel Writing Month, which happens to be November. The idea is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30. More about the venture here. For quite some time now I have been trying to write more than 1000 cohesive words but never really implemented it. This would be a test for me, to see if I really have it in me to write a novel. So amid all the work that my life is write now, NaNoWriMo will either come like a breath of fresh air(I hope) or mess me up some more. Step 1 of this process is to give a serious thought to what I really want to write. I have some ideas, stories of expatriate Indian women, a satirical look at parenthood, a totally superficial chick-lit, story of my life, tweaked here and there to make it more fiction-worthy. Which one will finally see the light of day? We’ll see.

I grew up in an environment where no one beats anyone else, for any reason. But we had a maid who came everyday with bruises and black eye, and when I asked her what happened she would say her husband came home drunk and beat her. That is how I knew ‘some’ husbands beat their wives when drunk. I grew up with that notion. I only saw domestic violence on the TV and thought it only happens to the lower ‘class’ women who do not have the education or support from family to walk out on their husbands and come back up on their feet.

Then, a few years back, 2 incidents happened. To two of my very good friends. And the way their families ‘handled’ it has been a study in diametric opposites.

One of my friends is a younger daughter of a very well to do scientist in a prestigious establishment and she herself is an engineer. Her parents are like mine, and have always treated their daughters like friends. You could not find one moment in their upbringing where you could think they regret not having a son. She was free to do what she wanted and they only started ‘looking’ for a suitable boy to get her married only when she was finally ready and said yes. She got married to this guy who was working in the US and his family was back home in India. Post marriage she was at her in-laws‘ place for a few months until she got her visa and left to join her husband in the states. While she was in India I chatted with her a few times and I remember she telling me her in laws were like friends and treated her very well. I was happy for her. Then one day, my dad called me and asked me to talk to her and find out ‘what is going on’. He then told me that she was always crying when she talked to her parents during the weekly call home. Always wanting to come back home. Her parents thought it was because she was in an alien land for the first time, and was a housewife so missed her husband all day! Little did they know that he had her under a ‘house arrest’. She was not allowed to go out, did not have a license to drive, her passport was locked up by him, she was given money only enough to do groceries, not allowed to call home when she wanted and did not have a computer while he was at work. He also taunted her and her parents because she could not cook very well (threw the plate on her face once). He did not beat her ever but this was enough to make her life a living hell. This was domestic violence she was facing. The last I heard, her parents talked to her husband and coaxed her to stay on and try to change him.

Another story is that of my dad’s good friend’s daughter, who is also my very good friend. She comes from a very simple middle class family, father, mother and younger brother, living in a small flat in Mumbai. She is also an engineer and worked for a few years before the marriage bug bit the parents. They found a suitable boy in the form of this son of rich gujju parents. He also was working in the US and came to India to meet her once. The next time he went was to get married. Cut to 2 years later, I get a call from my dad saying he is in Mumbai at his friends’ place and they are trying to get a visa to the US URGENTLY. The reason? Their daughter was being beat up everyday by her husband, AND he was having a much too intimate a relationship with a female colleague of his. My friend was under ‘house arrest’, was on a dependent visa and had nowhere else to go. Her parents and brother swiftly managed to get their visas to the US and joined her soon. The first thing they did was to contact a south-asianwomen’s domestic violence cell and got a restraining order against her husband. They then started proceedings for legal separation. Meanwhile, thewomen’s cell also managed to get her a special work visa and a job. In a few weeks she was divorced and earning her own living. Her family went back after a couple of months. Now she lives independently and is much happier than she was when she was married. Her family visits her whenever they can.

Two similar stories, but the way they were handled was drastically different. Both victims of domestic violence. One still trying to make her husband see sense, the other, moved on in life. Both were independent women who were treated badly by men from ‘decent’ families. I don’t know what is the ‘right’ thing to do in these cases but I strongly believe in one thing. A man who, regularly or intermittently beats his wife never changes his ways. A man who, regularly or intermittently, causes mental trauma to his wife never changes his ways. A man who does not respect his wife will never see any reason to change his ways. It works in movies, where a good Samaritan gives the bad guy a lecture about women and wife etc and the husband changes his ways and becomes good. It does not work like that in real life. Some women move on, others keep struggling all their lives. The cycle of violence, apologies, more violence, never ends. And do not think it happens only to women who are not educated or aware of their rights. It can happen to anyone.

Update:
I don’t know what is the ‘right’ thing to do in these cases….
I was contradicting myself here. I KNOW what the right thing to do is. And that is to walk out.

VAWM – October 2011

She could not take it any more, he was acting like a raving lunatic, a slap here, a shove there, she had seen it all. But this was new, and scary. He was coming at her with a can of kerosene and a burning cigarette glowed from his mouth. Her months of strength training and his drunk state ensured he met a chary end, and a new life for her and her baby.